Frank Fax Facts
Volume XVII, No. 54
Sunday, April 1, 2012
The Land of Apologia:
I goofed. Now, this is not exactly a new experience for me, but I do feel compelled to correct a mistake when I make one. It was in the Movie Trivia Answers: Shirley MacLaine co-starred with Robert Mitchum in Two for the Seesaw. Clint Eastwood (as Peggy Griffin reminded me) was with Shirley in Two Mules for Sister Sarah. I therefore offer my abject apologies for this rather self-explanatory glitch.
My public reacted in a more satisfying manner to the little vignette about the Lord’s Preying and Prying on us students. Hilda Starbuck (from my FSU days) told of an oh-so-semilar story about the same sort of thing happening to her down Florida way, back in her high school days. This involved a conflict of interests between another teacher and her School Choir. But the topper of all times, was when Keith Morgan (whom I had taught back in my JCJC faculty life) asked if My Mister Lord could be the same Mr. Lord he had a course with. It seems this remedial class ran from the first bell of the day (now get this!) until noon-every day!) That class was 4-hours long, every week day, and (according to Keith) was held in a part of the campus that I had never heard of: “The Barn”. It sounded worthy of anyone as loathsome as Mr. Lord! And I would be willing to bet, he loved being able to ruin those poor students’ lives. I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that it had to be the same fiend! But I had forgotten that the creature in question also wore a green transparent visor on his head, as he bicycled his way out of our hearts! Keith went on to say that he still had never quite gotten over the effects the man’s monotonous voice haunted him still!
Now, I feel that I relate the outcome of my troubles with the worst history teacher in (well now, how would this be?) the History of the World (which I never had a chance to study in all of my educational years).
As I stated in the last issue, Jogging John conducted his Physical Education class much like a drill sergeant that I might have encountered had I taken basic training in the Army then, rather than high school. (of course my actual basic training under Uncle Sam’s cadre, was a piece of cake compared to the awful things we endured under dear old John, the Jogger. We were forced to go out when ice stood all over the roads we were commanded to do the Cross Country on, at least once a week. Our clothing had to be (at all times) short shorts, running shoes and white socks, Nothing else was allowed, save a jock-strap. We were bare-chested, cap-less, and heavy with goose bumps. And the winters back then were so cold that water stayed frozen on our paths for days at a time!
One day, before Christmas, Coach Reed decided we had to do a little Indian Wrestling, This was a rare treat! We lined up, face to face. The object of the “game” was to throw your “partner” to the ground without using hands at all: just our feet. Of course, I was never any good at things that demanded strength, so I was the first one in the class to hit the cold, hard clay of Jones County. I grabbed my knee, which had sent shock waves throughout my entire body, and was scared almost to death, when I saw that it had become detached from its socket, and now consisted of the two parts, apparently staring at each other. Old Jogging John got really scared when he saw the shape my leg was in, and immediately began taking care of me as if his life depended on this. He slammed my knee cap back into position, with precision and an almost unbearable amount of pain. I was carried, by some of my strongest class mates, back inside the gym, where I was treated to my very first “taste” of the wintergreen odor of Bengue. It really did do absolute wonders for my afflicted limb; and I was able to make it home for “dinner” by catching the Laurel-Ellisville bus there and back for the afternoon session (which included a piano lesson with Bernice Gay at one o’clock). I did not even ask Mama if I had to return to the scene of JJ’s crime. I knew only too well what her answer would be. I often wondered just how many of my class mates had a perfect-attendance record. I dare say that I would bet a nickel that Nelda Lou and Jack Lord were two of them!
But, and here was my revenge over Mr. Lord and the war-crazy PE teacher: I went to the town’s oldest doctor when I got home for the day, and he examined my banged-up knee, and wrote for me a certificate that forbade me to have Physical Education ever again. And I did not.
Naturally, I had no further trouble getting to old “Perchance’s” class on time, so my grades soared back where they belonged. I still have trouble with my right knee; but you know what? It was well worth it, as far as I am concerned!
Social activities this week included a terrible day of bridge (Tuesday) with the older and more familiar lackluster hands making for a lot of ennui.
Friday night, Andy Meola came over, bringing me a catfish dinner (cole slaw and French fries, plus a Coors Light beer; not from St. Dominic’s, but from his own well stocked bar.) Saturday morning, Susan Storey came by for a visit, and I threw together an impromptu lunch of Pineapple salad (with cheese, chopped olives, Romaine lettuce and Mayonnaise) plus my infamous Sicilian Eggs (tomatoes and onions).
It has been a quiet and extremely-warm-for-March week; and frankly, March has been a total disaster, as far as I am concerned. I’m delighted that it is over.
“The best cure for insomnia is to get lots of sleep.”
W. C. Fields
DVD Movie Review
The Muppet Show (Disney)
I have not been able to watch any really great old Hollywood musicals for the last decade (at least) without dissolving into tears. I sob and blubber about the fact that “They just do not
make them like that any more!” I physically ache for the lost art of the wonderful old extravaganzas with all of the greatest talent in the world, usually in glorious Technicolor and Cinemascope (after the wide screen process set movies way ahead). Or even watching musicals like Meet Me in St. Louis, The Wizard of Oz, The Harvey Girls, just to name three, where I lament the fact that there will never be another Judy Garland—or any of dozens of spectacular musical personalities!
I freely admit that, when I first saw The Muppets on television, I disdained watching anything so silly and ugly (I never reconciled this abhorrence to The Simpsons, and similar cartoon television, But once I saw a movie with Kermit and Miss Piggy, I was hooked. I was in love! When Jim Henson died, and I finally learned that he was from Mississippi, I was so proud of that fact that here was a man, whose creations had taken the entire world by storm! And I lamented his all-too-early demise.
This newest entry into the Muppets’ remarkable movie careers, is extraordinary, if a little less wonderful than I hoped it would be. Still, there is enough to recommend that anyone who thought “The Rainbow Connection”, as sung by Kermit, the Frog was beautiful, will shed a tear or two, in tender nostalgia. It was actually the sort of thing I had thought I would never see again. What a wonderful surprise it is! Sadly, there can never be another Judy Garland; nor even another Cabaret starring her daughter. Thank God for DVDs and Turner Classic Movies!
Chris Cooper is almost too convincing as the villain of this film; while Amy Adams, Jack Black and Jason Segel are simply delightful to be with. (**)
My Black Thumb
(Which will no doubt take its place right up there with My Left Foot (and Elbow!)
My Daddy had what is lovingly (and in my case, jealously) known as having a green thumb. He could take a dime package of Ferris seeds, scatter then onto his neatly symmetrical rows of tilled soil, and reap a huge harvest of whatever it was that he had just planted. Helen, who was always trying to grow or transplant one thing or another, seems to have inherited a lot of her Papa’s God-given Gift. Yet, to hear her tell it, she had the blackest of thumbs No. It was I, the youngest of seven surviving Imbragulios, who had the dreaded Curse!
My memories are quite vivid, when it comes to remembering some of my more disastrous farming flubs. There was that never-to-be-forgotten afternoon, when the three of us sons were summoned by the head of the household to come and help him get some pretty little tomato plants into the mathematically perfect rows. Daddy was leading old one-eyed Ida (our mule) as she pulled a smallish plow over the dirt of the field closest to the house. All I was told was that I should place the plants, one at a time, into the soft, extremely black earth. Well, you may well imagine how embarrassed and ashamed I was to be accused of deliberately sticking the delicious-smelling plants upside down!
I looked intently at one of the plants: Which way were they supposed to go?
George and Sammy were so delighted to have someone else take the blame; they kept sniggering and I heard Sammy distinctly say the Italian word for”Idiot” (Babootsa). I darted my vilest look at him as I said, from between clenched molars, “Well, aw right for you!” Now, please don’t ask me what I meant by this bizarre statement, but when I asked a contemporary from Mississippi, he assured me that his entire family had often used the same words and he also had no idea at all what they meant.
By this time, I was more than ready to get back to the comfort and solace of our house and to more attractive activities! I walked, head down with disgrace, back to our back porch, where Mama cautioned me to clean my shows before coming into her clean kitchen.
“I just mopped th’ floor,” she said.
I dusted my shoes to the best of my ability, and walked hound-dog into the kitchen, Mama could easily deduce what had happened, and as usual, managed to turn my attention to something more pleasant. “Guess what came in today!”
I immediately thought about holidays. There wasn’t one that I even dared think about. It was the middle of April. Easter had come and gone, and it was still a long time until the Fourth of July. So, I said nothing.
“Go look in the chicken house!”
And like the poet’s “Dancing with the Daffodils”, my heart fairly leapt into the heavens. We must have a crop of new baby chicks!
I rushed to the entrance, turned the latch on the door and walked into the warmth and aromas of the henhouse that Sammy built house for Mama to her crop of biddies each spring, It was wonderful! The smells of baby chick food, coupled with cotton seed meal and normal chicken odors hit me hard in the face, and I loved it!
I watched for a few minutes, just savoring the moments: the little yellow balls of fuzz seemed intent on eating everything in sight. There were a few who were huddled close to the kerosene heater that Mama had put in there (it was very similar to one that was our only source of heat in the bathroom, which is why I insisted on taking my baths in one of Mama’s big zinc wash tubs, in front of the blazing fire in the fireplace in the room that I shared with Josephine.
I felt calm and happy. Baby animals always made me feel wonderful, somehow. George and I could fall in love with any of the many critters we had in our pastures and yard: there was always a watch dog (Ronnie was the current one: he was black with a white tummy and some golden spots around his ears. He was kept on a very long chain, and had a nice little house to which he could retire at any time he wanted to,) Usually, at least one Mama Cat, and whichever litter she had most recently given birth to. We had two or three milk cows at all times (George and Sammy took turns taking them to the pasture just past the colored folks’ cemetery; and George would often walk in those woods with his accordion, serenading old Bessy (who, he swore, would have real tears running down her face as he played!) We usually had two or three hogs, but it seemed every time one of the sows had a litter, she (or her mate) would eat them! That was why Mama brought a darling little baby pig back to the house. “I decided that you boys might have better luck raising them than that old sow!” Well, George instantly named the little piglet Susie; and then began singing, “Susie, little Susie—don’t you cry!” We were both crazy about our pet pig, and we were absolutely devastated when our feeding her milk from a baby bottle was not enough to keep her alive, Then, when he sang his sad little song, we were the ones crying. Years later (when we had moved back to Ellisville, the yard man brought a big bucket of soil to the porch, which at the time, encircled half of our big white house on the corner. He told us he had caught a mole, which had been plowing up the grass on the other side of our house. As usual, George decided his name: Penny had a gorgeous black fur coat. It was as smooth as velvet; and, of course he had no eyes. Jesse (the yard man) left a short shovel with which we could pull him up from his earth bed, and gaze lovingly at him. But this time, it was Mama who was the “Bad Guy”, and demanded that we let the thing loose the next morning! And then Mama had adopted a tiny duckling (there was a family of white ducks that had claimed the little pond in one of our pastures) as a pet. I forget what reason she gave for her adoption. Due to the popularity of a radio and movie comedian named Joe Penner (whose favorite line was, “Wanna buy a duck”, and would then sing a song that went, “Goo Goo---I don’t know!” over and over. Well, we all thought that just too cute for words). Mama named her little yellow duckling Goo Goo (the nickname eventually was bestowed on Josephine’s second daughter, Muriel. In adult life, she did not object to being called Googie, but resented the Goo Goo.) Every night, Goo Goo (the duck)* would sleep between my two cats of the time (knowing me, their names were probably Griselda and Katrinka). One morning, I was wakened by Mama, who was holding her baby duck in her hands and crying: She maintained to her dying day, that my cats had sucked the breath out of Goo Goo; and we all accepted this as the truth. Decades later, I was relating the tale to a friend who was a veterinarian, and he said it was far more likely that the duck had gotten between the cats for warmth, and was smothered through her own fault.
This little excursion into my distant childhood has filled me with so much longing for those happy. Innocent and uncomplicated days make it difficult to return to the present reality.
There really is no story; just those two memories of my early black thumb, and my unending romance with kittens and any other animal that I could love.
When Figaro died a few weeks ago, I was left with only one pet, for the first time since I moved to Mobile and had my own home. But Ginger is such a perfect joy to my old-age, that I constantly thank God that He saved the best to Last for me. And I feel that she sort of likes me, too!
Old Movie Trivia
Quiz # 30
1. What Booth Tarkington Pulitzer Prize winning novel was the basis of Orson Welles’ follow-up to Citizen Kane for RKO?
2. What actress (who won more Academy Awards that any other actress) had the title role in Alice Adams?
3. Who played The Spy Who Came In From the Cold?
4. What two Hollywood legends bombed out with Ishtar?
5. Who wrote the screenplay?
6. What two famous stars were paired in the screen version of Edna Ferber’s Saratoga Trunk?
7. The Garden of Eden was an early Technicolor film from David O. Selznick, that starred Charles Boyer with what glamorous German beauty?
8. Beau Geste (1939 version) had three great male stars as brothers in the Foreign Legion: Ray Milland and Robert Preston were the two younger siblings. Who was the eldest son?
9. The same year, RKO’s most expensive film to date was also about the Foreign Legion. Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. were just two o the all-star cast. What was this film?
10. Laurel and Hardy also had a Foreign Legion film about
this time. Can you name it? The title sounds more like a
film about airplanes than the desert.
Movie Trivia Quiz #30
1,Charles Boyer was cast as Napoleon, with Greta Garbo as Marie Walewska, in Conquest? MGM 1937.
2.Grand Hotel was based on a novel by Vicky Baum. It has an all-star cast. Joan Crawford was the female star who decades later, won an Oscar (as Mildred Pearce)
3Rio Rita starred Bud Abbot and Lou Costello, who achieved fame as comedians in numerous comedies (not always funny).
4. Stab Laurel and Oliver Hardy had Ollie remarking (often), “Well, this is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into”.
5.And then there was RKO’s twosome: Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsley.
6. Edna Mae Oliver was often the maiden aunt;(Little Women) the jovial grandmother (David Copperfield); and even a detective (shades of Jane Marple). She is best remembered for her role in 1939’s Drums Along the Mohawk.
7. Joan Crawford* *again) was the glamorous star of MGM’s The Ice Follies of 1939, which even had a Technicolor production number at the end. James Stewart and Lew Ayres are ice skating partners.
8. Barbara Bel Geddes portrays author Katherine Forbes, in the film of her best seller I Remember Mama. Irene Dunne was “Mama”. She was also Wm. Powell’s wife in Life with Father,
9. Irene Dunne* (who started as a singer) also played Queen Victoria in The Mudlark?
10. Geraldine Fitzgerald was Heathcliff’s unhappy wife, in Wuthering Heights; and also Bette Davis’ best friend in Dark Victory (for which she won that year’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar. George Brent was the doctor whom she married. Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan were the two “supporting actors” who became two of Warner Bros. all-time top stars. Bogart won an Academy Award; the other became our president.